NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is reporting a major surge in New York City subway crime.
The agency said pick pockets and other thieves are bumping up the crime rate by more than 20 percent this year compared to last, reports CBS 2's Dave Carlin.
WCBS 880's Rich Lamb reports
On her guard Wednesday was East Village resident Mariam Figueroa. She said she doesn't wear any visible jewelry and her electronics are hidden every time she steps into a station and on to a subway train.
"I'm not showing anything, you know, in the train because I really don't feel safe," Figueroa said.
Crime is way up in these areas, to the point where straphangers can be left vulnerable and trapped.
There were 232 robberies in the first quarter of 2012, according to the NYPD. That's a bump of 31.8 percent.
In addition, there were 393 grand larcenies, mostly iPhones and iPads, during that same period, an increase of 23.6 percent.
Almost a third of the victims in these cases were reportedly asleep when they were robbed, the NYPD said.
"I guess it's up to you to know not to fall asleep. [Some] can't really help it, though. You fall asleep you fall asleep," straphanger Freddie Cantillop said.
As the MTA continues with its "stay awake and stay alert" policy of 30-second public service announcements, some MTA board members want more than just increased patrols. They are pushing for a new prosecutor appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to specifically handle subway crimes.
They point to the rap sheet of 69-year-old Thomas Coles, who is heading back to jail for attempting to rob a straphanger. Board members argue his nine-month sentence is too lenient for a repeat offender.
Former NYPD detective and security expert Sal Lifrieri told Carlin no matter what the government does to try and make people safer so much of it is up to the people, themselves.
"Pay attention where your valuables are. Don't flash money. Don't show your wallet. Don't go through your wallet. Don't make yourself an easier mark," Lifrieri said.
And it's not just gadget thieves straphangers have to weary of. On Tuesday, police said they were looking for two suspects in two unrelated crimes on the subway.
One man is wanted for allegedly taking an upskirt picture of a straphanger while the other is wanted for public lewdness, police said.
But at the MTA's monthly board meeting on Wednesday, Chairman Joseph Lhota insisted crime has decreased month-by-month since January.
"Crime stats are down from March of 2011 to March 2012, so I'm a little bit taken a back by the amount of reports that keep talking about crime increasing on the subways," he said. "I think the NYPD is doing a very good job monitoring crime."
Last month, Lhota said he would be meeting with the city's five district attorneys to discuss the possibility of banning repeat subway crime offenders from the underground system.
Earlier reports Wednesday said NYPD Police Commissioner Ray Kelly was set to meet with Lhota to discuss subway crime, but officials said the two regularly hold meetings and that no special discussion was scheduled.
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